philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


India’s First Ever Virtual Reality Cinema In Mumbai Is Now Open For Bookings

v3_1488106403_725x725...the first one ever in the world was established in Amsterdam in May last year, and in less than a year, India has got its own virtual reality cinema, thanks to Enlighten Film Society.

You can book for the Sunday shows on and experience being in a movie while watching it.

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Popularity of Sony’s PlayStation VR Surprises Even the Company

27virtual-master768-2Even Andrew House, global chief executive of Sony Interactive Entertainment, the video game division of the Japanese electronics giant, had doubts about how quickly virtual reality would be embraced by the mass market.

It turns out Mr. House was too cautious. The headset, PlayStation VR, has been scarce in many stores, especially in Japan, since it went on sale in October. In an interview at his Silicon Valley office on Friday, Mr. House revealed PlayStation VR’s sales for the first time, saying consumers had purchased 915,000 of the headsets as of Feb. 19, roughly four months after it went on sale.

In contrast, during its first three months on the market in 2007, Apple sold nearly 1.4 million iPhones; a feat now considered among the most successful technology products of all time.

Last week at its offices, Sony provided a demonstration of a new gun-shaped device, the PlayStation VR Aim controller, that will allow players to more easily aim and shoot weapons within virtual reality games. The controller and first game that uses it, a space adventure called Farpoint, will come out May 16.

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Virtual-reality system for the elderly wins health care prize

At last night’s MIT Sloan Healthcare Innovations Prize pitch competition, Rendever earned the $25,000 grand prize for creating a virtual-reality platform that gives residents in assisted-living facilities the chance to explore the world virtually. The platform also provides cognitive therapy and tracks movement data to aid in early diagnosis of dementia.

“We’re using virtual reality to improve the way we age, so you don’t become isolated, don’t become depressed, and you can keep your mind happy and healthy,” said Rendever co-founder and CEO Dennis Lally, an MIT Sloan School of Management student who launched the startup with classmate Reed Hayes.

In the team’s winning pitch, Rendever said its system includes multiple virtual-reality headsets, custom software, and a tablet. The software syncs headsets together, so users can join together in a virtual world, visiting childhood homes, exotic locales, sports games, or a relative’s wedding across the world. The headsets can be controlled simultaneously by caregivers, using the tablet. All content is also custom-made by Rendever, based on 20 million gigabytes of content mined from the internet.

Apart from providing a socializing tool, the system can double as a form of reminiscence therapy, which involves discussing past experiences, with aid of photographs, familiar items, and music — or virtual cues, in the case of Rendever.

According to trial studies, Rendever’s system has increased overall resident happiness at the Brookdale Senior Living Community in Massachusetts by 40 percent, Lally said. The startup is currently working with the MIT AgeLab to validate those statistics.

Rendever also hopes to leverage virtual-reality data to aid in diagnosing dementia, which currently relies on qualitative studies and expert opinion. “We’re creating a data-driven [diagnostics] solution,” Lally said.

Users are asked to work through real-life simulations, such as making dinner, completing a series of tasks. In the process, Rendever’s software collects thousands of data points per minute on movement, reaction time, and executive function. All this can lead to earlier interventions for dementia patients and help measure the efficacy of treatments.

“We can track very precisely how someone moves through this space, and what they were doing,” Hayes, Rendever’s chief operations officer, told MIT News. “We also built a machine-learning model that’s currently being trained to help find patterns [characteristic of] someone who has early-stage dementia versus someone of healthy mind.”

Rendever’s prize money will help fund research and development, with a second trial study kicking off soon. Hayes attributes the team’s win to tapping into an underserved need. “Everyone has a parent or grandparent who’s getting older … and not much can be done when they can’t leave the house,” he said. “The solution we built is a fun way for them to re-experience the world again, to be explorers. We’re bringing that to a demographic that has lost the ability [to explore].”

Last year, Rendever entered the pitch competition — its first entrepreneurship contest ever — and made it to the semifinals round. By refining the business and technology through MIT classes at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship — under the watchful eye of managing director Bill Aulet — the team came out on top, Reed said. “It’s this awesome story for us to come back [to the competition] and win,” he said.

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Interview: IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond Talks Virtual Reality

IMAX-VR-Centre-Reception-1200x812Mendelson: Of the games that you've launched so far, what are your favorites? I assume you've played them all.

Gelfond: I haven't played them all. The reason is I'm a 61-year-old male. They weren't all made for me. For example, one called The Wire, lets you walk out on a tightrope between the World Trade Centers. I'm not very fond of heights. You're never going to get me to do that. I think the John Wick game is really intriguing because it's based off a movie franchise. Also, it uses our Starbreeze VR glasses. It's called Star VR, which is a wider field of view. I think it's a little bit of a peek into the future.

We're just starting to toy with multi-player games. I did "Eagle Flight" with three on three. That was really intriguing. We've gotten a lot of positive feedback on " Tatooine,”, which is our Star Wars VR experience. They're all pretty good. I think we're at the beginning of the technology, not the end of it. I think they'll continue to get better and better.

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Apple’s new patent might be a hint for future Augmented Reality apps on iPhone

1*_NVGe733XOaNPXEPiDufSQ[PhilNote: I can't believe something so obvious is approved for a patent!]

This week Apple has been granted a new patent for creating digital avatars on the iOS ecosystem.

Titled as ‘Avatar Editing Environment’ the new USPTO patent allows iPhoneand iPad owners to create a digital representation of themselves using their devices.

Starting with a blank face the user can add, rescale and position different elements on the blank face, including but not limited to different eyes, ears, mouth (including teeth and smile), nose, eyebrows, hair, beard, moustache, glasses, earrings, hats, and other elements that are associated with physical characteristics of humans and fashion. The user can also change the shape of the avatar’s face, the avatar’s skin color and the color of all the elements.

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PAYMENTS INNOVATION Does Commerce Have A Role To Play In Virtual Reality?

vantiv-vr-ar-commerceMatt Ozvat, head of developer integrations at Vantiv, and Josh Mather, technology evangelist at Vantiv, whose Vantiv O.N.E. developer experience includes a virtual reality and augmented reality community, both agreed that now is the time when the adoption of VR/AR is starting to gain traction as consumers begin to find new use cases for the technologies whose potential they didn’t fully realize before.

Ozvat is confident that the push toward invisible payments is one that will continue going forward as merchants seek to find more opportunities to provide fast and frictionless transactions to their consumers.

“Removing cards and wallets altogether from the [payment] experience is something to keep always on your horizon. These new concepts of eCommerce, AR/VR and whatever crazy technology comes next will all be focused around making it so easy to buy,” he said.

Conceptualizing and designing VR/AR consumer experience solutions are at the heart of the Virtual 2 Reality Challenge coming up at the Innovation Project next month.

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Zappar Goes from $84,000 Kickstarter to $3.75 Million Series A Funding for Mobile AR

ZapWorks, Zappar's primary product, is a development environment for using 3D models with animation and image tracking tools to create many types of experiences. The output of that development process is designed for augmented, mixed, and virtual reality uses on mobile devices and head-mounted displays.

The ZapBox, the augmented reality version of Google Cardboard, uses an external camera to project the outside view of the user to the phone being used. This is designed to simulate an augmented reality experience far less expensive than any of the standalone AR devices out on the market at the moment.

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Vuzix Enters into Development Agreement with Toshiba for a Customized Smart Glasses Device

Vuzix_Logo[PhilNote: Putting this in the context of the Qualcomm VR hdwr accelerator program, I hope the strong Vuzix development team has a better experience with this than their previous Nokia development effort.]

Under the terms of this agreement, Vuzix and Toshiba have embarked on a rapid development program with milestone payments totaling over one million US dollars. With development efforts well under way, Toshiba, subject to a final manufacturing agreement, expects to place additional purchase orders from Vuzix for production deliveries in the 4th quarter of 2017. Further details on the new smart glasses product will be released soon after public marketing of the product commences.

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Qualcomm launches virtual reality display accelerator program

qualcomm-hmdQualcomm has launched an accelerator to help hardware companies develop head-mounted displays for virtual reality.

The company has targeted its Snapdragon 835 mobile chip at virtual reality headsets and currently has four customers with early 820-based designs in the market. An additional five 820 designs are coming in 2017. Now, to further stoke the market, the company is launching the Qualcomm Head Mounted Display (HDM) Accelerator Program. Clearly, from Qualcomm’s perspective, spreading its bets around and encouraging the VR ecosystem could help the fledgling market grow.

The goal of the accelerator program is to help manufacturers increase the speed with which they are able to create and ship new products, while also reducing their engineering costs. The program is essentially designed as a catalyst for hardware manufacturers who are creating a VR HMD of their own.

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The 360-Degree Selfie

360camerasgroupshot.webInexpensive cameras that make spherical images are opening a new era in photography and changing the way people share stories.

[Phil Note: the story describes a number of consumer market 360 cameras.]

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